Snowshoeing in Emigrant Wilderness

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Home Forums Campfire Member Trip Reports Snowshoeing in Emigrant Wilderness

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    BPL Member


    Thursday, December 17 brought some fresh snow to the Sierra and the weather forecast for Pinecrest near Emigrant Wilderness looked bright and sunny for every single day of the 10-day forecast. That was all we needed to decide to go on a 5-day pre-Christmas snowshoeing trip. My boss approved my vacation request on the spot, and we left Friday after work in our “adventure mobile” (our 17 year old Toyota Sienna that I remodeled after it fulfilled its duty as a children shuttle) to spend the night at the trailhead.

    Here we are having breakfast on Saturday morning. We have a sleeping platform with drawers for gear in the middle and a fridge, stove, water station and drawers for food and kitchen utensils in the back. A solar panel on the roof and a rechargeable battery complete the setup so we can boondock for quite a while.

    Toyota Sienna 'Adventure Mobile'

    We carried our snowshoes for the first couple of miles on the road to Crabtree Trailhead that is closed for the winter.

    Manfred on Crabtree Road

    Gela on Crabtree Road

    Eventually there was more snow, …

    Finally more snow

    … but we kept walking without our snowshoes until we reached Crabtree Trailhead, …

    Crabtree Trailhead

    … where Gela started cleaning a table from the snow, …

    Gela cleans snow from the picnic table

    … while I prepared our tent.

    Our tent is set up

    Spending the night at Crabtree Trailhead was luxurious as we had a restroom, a table to eat at and a firepit to cook on.


    Sunday morning, we ventured on our snowshoes into Emigrant Wilderness.

    Emigrant Wilderness Boundary

    At this intersection we went straight ahead towards Camp Lake. On day 5 of our trip we would return via Pine Valley from the right.

    Going towards Camp Lake

    Frozen Camp Lake was beautiful in the sun.

    Camp Lake

    As this is the time of year with the shortest days we made camp pretty soon.

    Camp past Camp Lake

    Monday morning brought us another sunny day. The smile on Gela’s face tells you that our 20F quilts kept us warm.

    Gela in tent

    The following couple of pictures give you an impression of our snowshoeing experience during the day while we hiked past Piute Meadow to Groundhog Meadow.

    Manfred snowshoeing

    Emigrant Wilderness in the snow

    Gela snowshoeing

    Gela on her way down to Piute Meadow

    When it was time to make camp, Gela would prepare our tent site, …

    Gela preparing camp site for tent

    … while I prepared our fireplace for the night.

    Firewood is cut

    Our tent is prepared …

    Tent is set up

    …as is the fireplace.

    Fire is going

    At the campfire Gela sang a Russian song for me …

    Gela at campfire

    .. and I sang a German song for her.

    Manfred at campfire

    Hot breakfast in bed is a wonderful thing.

    Breakfast in bed

    Another sunny day greeted us on Tuesday. The temperature in our tent dropped at night to a low of 15.9 F, which was the coldest during our trip and brought my Therma-A-Rest NeoAir XLite (on a GG Thinlight) close to its limit. Gela’s Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm kept her warm and cozy.

    Gela under quilt in tent

    During the day we descended through the snow …

    Through the snow

    … towards Pine Valley.

    Pine Valley

    Once there, we had a little break with hot apple cider.

    Break with hot apple cider

    Enjoying the sun…,

    Tree stump in the snow

    … we made good progress …

    Gela hiking through the snow

    … to the “other” Grouse Lake as we had already visited the “original” Grouse Lake this year  in Kings Canyon Nation Park during our backpacking trek on the Sierra High Route.

    Grouse Lake

    After crossing Lily Creek, …

    Gela crosses Lily Creek

    we made our last camp. This time we set up without the trekking pole in the middle, but hung the tent instead.

    Ultamid 4 hung from tree

    Taking down the tent in the morning was a breeze.

    Gela takes down the tent

    Wednesday morning, we climbed from Pine Valley back to the intersection that we had first passed on Sunday. There were still no other foot steps to see anywhere. We had the whole wilderness to ourselves all those days.

    Back at the intersection

    Bell Creek was frozen when we crossed it.

    Bell Creek

    One last selfie …

    Manfred & Gela at Emigrant Wilderness

    … and a little bit of winter fun beforeSnowman our pre-Christmas trip was over.

    During this trip we carefully ‘got our feet wet’ to add a 4th season to our backpacking year. It was a lot of fun and with our learnings from this trip we are now both very excited to go on longer winter treks.

    Wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas”, a “Wonderful Holiday Season” and a “Happy, Healthy New Year”.


    BPL Member


    This trip report has all the photos. Enjoy!

    Somehow there is a second version of it on the site that seems to have broken photo links.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    What a wonderful trip Manfred! Thanks for sharing.

    What was the German song you sang?

    BPL Member


    Doug, we were sitting around the campfire and looking at the stars and the moon. So a German song came to my mind that has “Grüß mir die Sterne und grüß mir den Mond!” (Give my regards to the stars and give my regards to the moon) as part of its refrain. The song is called “Flieger grüß mir die Sonne“. You can listen to it here and find a (rough) translation into English here.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    Looks like a great trip- thanks for sharing!  Nice when you have the whole place to yourself, definitely a perk of winter camping.

    Listen to the wisdom of your wife- get a Xtherm :)

    lisa r
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western OR

    Fun trip! How does the Sienna work for you as adventure mobile? Do you have the AWD version? I’ve been thinking about trading in the Subie Forester for a Sienna and getting it lifted a couple inches for ground clearance. Have been thinking of going with the 2WD version to save several thousand (or more) $ and just getting good tires, but I’m on the fence. What kind of build out did you?

    BPL Member


    Hi Lisa,

    We have a 2004 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD. One major requirement for us was that any kind of remodel would have to be reversible within 5 minutes to get the minivan back to a 7 seater. At first I just took out the two captain chairs in the middle and build a bench …Platform … that can be folded out on both sides to form a sleeping platform, …


    .. that has the length of a standard sleeping pad, so I (6’1″) can sleep comfortably on it.

    Length of platform

    As you can see the backbench stays fully functional, so we can still transport 5 people and after unfolding the bench sleep with 2 people in the minivan.

    I added carpet to the platform and pull-out drawers under it for gear Drawers under platform

    Now we got two wide standard-length sleeping pads with build-in pillow to make for a really comfortable double bed.


    Finally I added a removable table that allows me to work with my laptop from the road and allows us to eat inside when it rains. Notice how the bench is anchored in the existing anchor points for the captain chairs.


    Next came the kitchen in the back. I built it around a Dometic fridge.


    The kitchen has a ‘cooking station’ above the fridge …

    Cooking station

    … that can be pulled out for cooking and has an additional pull-out as table to prepare food and eat at.

    Pulled out cooking station

    At 6’1″ im able to access the fridge in this pulled-out state, but Gela is 5’2″ and I built an extra fold-up mechanism so she can easily get to the fridge as well.

    Get to fridge

    I finally added three drawers for kitchen utensils, food etc. and a water station for 5 Gallon of water.

    Water station and drawers

    Below the 3 drawers is a Goal Zero Yet 1500X battery that gets charged from the car while driving and from a solar panel while parked. I built special brackets for the solar panel that allow me to easily slide it into the roof rack

    Solar Panel

    And I wired it all through the tail light and thus didn’t have to drill any holes into the body.

    Cable to battery

    Here you can see Gela sleeping in the minivan Sleeping in minivan

    And here you see us at one of our breakfasts with our adventure mobile.


    BPL Member


    That is GREAT!

    Awesome trip and excellent use of a Sienna!!!

    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    Ditto. Great trip report and great van ‘conversion’ (gotta love pocket screws)!

    The outdoor fires look festive and cozy, but I can’t believe you are collecting all that wood and don’t have a hot tent. Slap a stove jack in your ‘mid, and get yourself a size medium Seek Outside U-turn stove with a 7’ pipe. Winter camping heaven!

    BPL Member



    Pocket screws made the conversion fast and easy to do next to my day job. May be one day I sell the wooden conversion set (anyone interested?) to another Toyota Sienna owner and rebuild it with half-blind and/or secret mitred dovetail joints :)

    I love your suggestion of getting a U-turn stove. Before I cut a hole into my HMG Ultamid 4 I’d like to be pretty sure I’m doing it right. Thus a couple of questions to you and the rest of the community.

    1) What is the best location for the stove jack – assuming there is front, back, left and right? As you saw in our photos – we sleep in our current setup in the back. Thus I would intuitively put the stove jack in the ‘front’, but wonder what potential issues (getting in/out, etc.) I introduce with that

    2) What is the best source for a stove jack?

    3) Can/should I use one of the two existing vents in the Ultamid 4? They are roughly 4″x5″ and are ‘left’ and ‘right’ of the center.

    Any and all suggestions are highly welcome!


    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    A jack could replace one of the 2 vents, though the jack would probably sit slightly lower down the panel than the current vent. Say, down to the seam in the Cuben fabric below the vent.

    In my ‘mids, I occupy the back half too. I put my stove jack in the top of a side panel (like the HMG vent location) on the side that I am most likely to stake the door flap down on. So, when one door flap is rolled back to enter, it creates a sort of traffic flow to that side. Gear is stored behind the ‘closed’ door flap. That is also the stove side. The stove itself can be moved around a fair bit despite the pipe exit hole being a fixed location in the canopy. There is ‘play in the joints’ where the pipe meets the firebox, so if you want to use a nest you still can by scooting the stove a bit towards the door of the tent. The firebox can face any direction depending on where you want to feed it from. It makes a tremendous platform for cooking too.

    Ripstopbytheroll sells stove jack material. If you are into sewing, I’d just go that route. Many off-the-shelf jacks are overbuilt and unnecessarily complicated. It’s just a panel with a spoke-slit hole, and maybe a flap to cover the hole when you aren’t using the stove. TiGoat (RIP) used to sell them. SeekOutside used to sell them. Luxe-hiking-gear sells them, but the rectangular size will be off (too big on top). Best to make a size perfect for the panel shape you will install it in. A flap covering the stove pipe hole when the pipe is not being used can be also made from jack material or a removable panel of something light, Velcro’d in place.

    If you decide to tackle this, we can offer some solutions.

    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    Nice report–and a great trip.  That’s our neck of the woods, and it was fun to see it in winter.  And as the owner/operator of a Ford Econoline van, I like what you’ve done with the Sienna.  Here’s a link to photos of our van, Le Vin Blanc…


    BPL Member



    Le Vin Blanc has been to some cool places. As it had your website written on its side I also browsed there a little. I guess now I will have to hike the Golden Canyon in Spring …

    BPL Member



    Thanks for offering your help! I will have to see whether I tackle it myself or ask someone with sewing skills to help. Or – may be – I can send my tent to SO when buying the U-Turn and have them install the stove jack. After all they offer DCF tents with stove jack and have the expertise. May be Kevin can chime in whether that is an option?


    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Great trip report! What are the temperature ranges you experienced on this trip? Curious about how you stayed warm but didn’t carry too much.

    BPL Member



    during the day it was sunny and around 50F. While snowshoeing we both used just a base/mid layer as top directly on the skin. Gela used a Smartwool 250 Merino and I a Kuiu Peloton 97

    At night the temperatures were mostly in the mid 20s. We had one night where it dropped to 15.9F and one where it dropped to 20.4F. We used our individual EE Enigma 20 quilts with a 20F double quilt above both of us that is similar to the EE Accomplice. Gela used a NeoAir XTherm and I used a NeoAir XLite – both on a GG Thinlight. That was sufficient for us at night. Gela would use a Nalgene with hot water in her sleeping bag and later during the night add her down jacket and her down pants when it got colder while I just slept all night in my base layer.


    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    I started a new thread on stove jacks so as not to derail your excellent trip report. Cheers.

    BPL Member


    Awesome report and pics Manfred!  Your “adventure mobile” looks awesome and its great that it can be undone whenever needed!  Your adventures are quite motivating, I did Desolation Wilderness last summer and  may do something similar next spring/summer. Thank you for sharing the report.


    HAT 2020 training participant

    Josh D
    BPL Member


    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! Can I ask: where did you park? I’m planning a snowshoeing trip into Emigrant soon (I’ve only been in the Summer).

    Thank you!

    BPL Member


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